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Game #24: But, Soft! What Light Through Yonder Window Breaks

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Well, it wasn't the pitchers' duel we imagined, and all looked bleak in the eighth as the A's continued to trail 4-2, but a much-maligned player, who has been awesome on defense, light on offense finally came through. After the A's tied the game in the eighth, and they kept the tie in the ninth, Yonder Alonso hit his first home run of the season; a game-winning, walk-off bomb that took the A's from a 4-4 tie to a 7-4 win in the blink of an eye out into the cold Oakland night, sending the crowd home with smiles on their faces.

Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes, even the best laid plans give way to something even better. After a disappointing ending to Sean Manaea's line, as the Astros jumped ahead of the A's in the sixth, heading down a well-worn path of losses for the A's this week, the surprising A's offense kicked into high gear and not only tied the game, but gave us a thrilling walk-off win unexpectedly on a Friday night.

It might not have been the night of starting pitching we were hoping for, but it leaves us something to build on. I'll save you the suspense, Sean Manaea's debut line is not that impressive, but he had a little help from Sean Doolittle. At least two of those runs should belong to him (baseballgirl refrains from further wine-fueled editorial comment). Okay, one more comment: I would have rather the A's used Ryan Dull in a all-important game-changing sixth inning rather than Sean Doolittle. There, I said it.

Manaea finished the night pitching into the sixth, allowing only one run up to this point, but regardless of the help he did not get, four walks and a HPB in 5+ innings is not going to help the cause. In 5+ innings, Manaea racked up four hits, four walks, four earned runs, and three strikeouts. The only run Manaea allowed in his first five innings was a solo home run to Evan Gattis leading off the second inning. He allowed an infield hit in the first, but the runner was thrown out, and in almost a mirror play, Billy Burns singled to open the game for the A's and was thrown out stealing. Both plays were extremely close.

With the Astros leading 1-0 in the second, Chris Coghlan singled and Coco Crisp hit his third home run of the season to give the A's the 2-1 lead; a lead they would hold until the sixth. Coco Crisp started the A's half of the fifth inning with another hard hit ball; this one went for a single, but he was weirdly picked off first on the next pitch; stopping dead off first base, needing minimal effort from the Astros to tag him out. It was almost as if he thought a balk was called. Unfortunately, Yonder Alonso chose that time to get his first hit of the game (spoiler alert: It wouldn't be his most memorable), so instead of runners at the corners with no outs, the A's had to settle for a man on first and one out. After birthday boy Ron Washington was nearly killed by a foul ball by Billy Burns, Burns finally struck out to end the inning.

The sixth inning saw Sean Manaea exit the game after a hit by pitch, a walk and a single tied the game. Sean Doolittle replaced him, with Manaea's earned runs hanging in the balance; would he end the inning and his game line with two earned runs, or four? I think you know the answer to that. To add insult to injury, Ryan Dull came in to end the inning and pitched a scoreless seventh, as if to say, "You should have used me in relief first!".

The A's went meekly in their half of the seventh, but showed definite life in the eighth, as Marcus Semien crushed a ball into the Oakland night to bring the score to 4-3. Billy Burns promptly singled down the left field line, the ball taking a huge hop; one of those where if the left fielder misses the hop, Burns is probably scoring on the play. His speed would certainly continue as a factor, because on a 2-0 count, Burns stole second; the Astros uncorked a horrific throw, and Burns ended up on third, and with anything more than zero outs, he likely would have been sent home. Lowrie wasted no time with a long sac fly, tying the game at four.

Disaster nearly struck in the top of the ninth as Ryan Madson entered the game and promptly gave up what looked for all the world like the go-ahead home run, but in a real break for the A's, the ball hit the yellow line, only an inch keeping it in play. Carlos Gomez streaked around first and second, heading for third, en route to a leadoff triple. Meanwhile in the outfield, Billy Burns flat out beat Coco Crisp to the ball and uncorked the perfect throw--on a line--to throw out the speedy Gomez for the first out of the inning.

That was all the motivation the A's would need to win. Stephen Vogt started off the bottom of the ninth for the A's with a ringing double, as a Houston dive failed to bring in the ball for the out. Vogt didn't even attempt to make the first out at third; he saw double all the way. A perfect bunt by the pinch-hitting Canha (his first of his career) sent the runner to third base and after Coco Crisp drew a 3-1 count, the Astros walked him in favor of Yonder Alonso. All he needed was a sac fly, and as he smashed the ball deep into the Oakland night, he knew he had at least won the game; the only question was by how much.

That answer of course was the final score of 7-4, and it couldn't have happened to a more perfect player. So Manaea takes the no-decision instead of the loss, Madson earns the win, and Yonder gets the pie. A perfect end to a Friday night as the A's take the first game of the series.

The A's are on their way to more starting pitching help; Jesse Hahn takes the mound tomorrow, trying to win the series for the A's, facing off against Chris Devenski. We'll see you back here with all the action at 1:05.